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The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 7, Europe in the Age of Enlightenment and Revolution

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 7, Europe in the Age of Enlightenment and Revolution

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, introduction by J. Patrice Marandel
159 pages
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The latter half of the eighteenth century was an era of contradictions: unparalleled luxury and abject poverty; absolute monarchs and republican pamphleteers; unquestioned faith and reasoned skepticism; Rococo fantasy and classical purity—an epoch that witnessed the splendid, waning hours of the old order and the violent birth of the modern age. For the privileged few, sculptors and decorative artists created a world of delicate gaiety that we call the Rococo: A console table by Giuseppe MariaBonzanigo; a gold snuffbox by Jean Fremin; a gilt bronze and marble mantel clock modeled by Augustin Pajou; a sécretaire by Jean Henri Riesener; and rooms from Bordeaux and Grasse all illustrate theelegance of the century's fine arts.

In painting, the intensity of the Baroque had given way to a multitude of styles: refinement in the portraiture of Batoni, Mengs, and Gainsborough; passion and pleasure in the paintings of Fragonard; and a curious mingling of archaeology and fantasy in the works of artists like Pannini, Piranesi, and Robert. There was also a renewed fascination with the classical world—fired by the discovery of the buried cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Flocking to Rome as they had done for centuries, artists came to worship at the shrine of the antique, and now, on the Grand Tour, their patrons joined them—all seeking to distill from the Eternal City the transcendent truths of Europe's classical forebears. The severe Neoclassical aesthetic found its most daring proponent in David. His Death of Socrates—austere in tone, spare of anecdote, and archaeologically and morally "correct"—provided on the eve of revolution the visual correlative of republican hopes.

As Napoleon's army forcibly exported the ideals of the Revolution across Europe, so, too, it spread the state-supported aesthetic: The Empire style in the decorative arts and the Neoclassical style in paintingsignified as fundamental a change in the European sensibility as had the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the regicide that followed it.

The Neoclassical style initially gave artistic expression to the Revolution at its most implacable, but still-newer sensibilities were emerging that would characterize the aesthetics of the remainder of the nineteenth century: Romanticism and Realism. In England, Fuseli and Blake gave expression to the brooding Romantic spirit. In Spain, Goya refused to ignore the real and terrifying world and instead offered up a mirror of man's capacity for brutality and compassion. In France, Ingres brought classical portraiture to its apex, while Gericault and Delacroix experimented with a brilliant palette and exotic subject matter. But it was finally in the paintings of Turner and Constable in England and Corot, Rousseau, and Courbet in France that the quintessentially nineteenth-century subject emerged: nature precisely observed on site.

Europe in the Age of Enlightenment and Revolution presents a broad range of examples of the tastes and styles of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, all drawn from the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. In all, over 120 paintings and objects are reproduced, giving a grand overview of this crucial period in European art.

Europe in the Age of Enlightenment and Revolution is one in a series of books that covers practically all of the world's cultures, from the earliest times to the present. In total, some fifteen hundred objects, drawn from every curatorial department of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, are reproduced, most in full color.

Ancient Rome, Giovanni Paolo Panini  Italian, Oil on canvas
Modern Rome, Giovanni Paolo Panini  Italian, Oil on canvas
Diana and Cupid, Pompeo Batoni  Italian, Oil on canvas
Alexander the Great Offering His Concubine Campaspe to the Painter Apelles, Gaetano Gandolfi  Italian, Black chalk (stumped), highlighted with white, on brownish paper
Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–1768), Anton Raphael Mengs  German, Oil on canvas
ca. 1777
Prisoners on a Projecting Platform, from "Carceri d'invenzione" (Imaginary Prisons), Giovanni Battista Piranesi  Italian, Etching, engraving, sulphur tint or open bite, burnishing; first state of four (Robison)
ca. 1749–50
ca. 1760
Console table, Giuseppe Maria Bonzanigo, Carved, painted and gilded poplar wood; marble top, Italian, Turin
ca. 1782–92
Folding Fan with Representations of Pompeii and the 1786 Eruption of Vesuvius, Parchment, paint, tortoiseshell, gilt metal, glass, Italian
ca. 1795
Perseus with the Head of Medusa, Antonio Canova  Italian, Marble, Italian, Rome
Broken Eggs, Jean-Baptiste Greuze  French, Oil on canvas
Head of a Girl Looking Up, Jean-Baptiste Greuze  French, Red chalk; framing lines in pen and brown ink
Nymph drying her hair, Louis Claude Vassé  French, Nymph: white marble: base, basin and console: gray-veined marble; serpents: bronze, with remains of gilding, French, Paris
The Stolen Kiss, Jean Honoré Fragonard  French, Oil on canvas
ca. 1760
The Draftsman, Jean Honoré Fragonard  French, Black chalk
The Armoire, Jean Honoré Fragonard  French, Etching, first state of four
The Love Letter, Jean Honoré Fragonard  French, Oil on canvas
early 1770s
Snuffbox, Jean Frémin  French, Gold, enamel, French, Paris
Robe à la française, silk, French
ca. 1770
Robe à la française, silk, French
Showing 20 of 121

View Citations

Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.), and J. Patrice Marandel, eds. 1987. Europe in the Age of Enlightenment and Revolution. New York: The Museum.